logo NY2SY SOLO NORTH ATLANTIC ROW
Date: 07 Jun 2018 13:32:28
Title: Back on course.

You hear the whoosh first, then when you turn round you see it's huge dark back arching into the ocean. It was a Sperm Whale, the first big whale I have seen since I began my row, and it moved on gracefully and relentlessly. I sat there on the deck watching it pass with tears in my eyes and a broken rudder lying on the deck. I was going nowhere.
 
I was hit by some really nasty weather on Monday night. Winds of 25-30kts had been forecast but these felt much stronger. I was sitting on my sea-anchor and throughout the night I could hear the sound of my rudder being pounded by the waves. The conditions were too dangerous for me to even open my aft hatch to see what was going on, incase the cabin was swamped, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would just have to wait until morning until I knew if any damage had been done. It was a long night.

First light on Tuesday confirmed my worst fears, one of the holding pins on my rudder had been bent. There was no sign of the holding pin I had secured in place to stop the rudder from lifting out of it's bracket and the pins had been pushed up and out but the top one must have gone back into place as it took all the weight of the rudder and all the punishment of the ocean. I'm still trying to figure out how it happened, a one in a million chance it seems, and it happened to me. I tried to straighten it out by countering the bend using the bracket as a lever but, as I expected, the pin then just sheared off.
 
 
 
 
There were some Satphone calls back to my support team to try and come up with a solution. It was suggested that I carry on without a rudder and use my oars to steer but it's not something I felt that I was capable of doing for over 3000 miles. There was also the danger of carrying on and getting into trouble later and people would ask the question "why did you carry on without a rudder". I was already far out into the ocean, I was only going to keep drifting further away so I took the decision to contact the UK Coastguard to inform them about my situation. They in turn passed on the information to their US counterparts and I spoke with them several times during the course of Tuesday about possible outcomes. There were no ships in my area to come to my immediate aid and I continued to drift in the strong current of the Gulf Stream. Eventually they informed me that a US Coastguard cutter (USCGC) was en route to my location but wouldn't be on scene until the middle of the next day. After that, I basically went into a meltdown as I thought that I would have to abandon the row, and my boat, again. Disbelief, shock, sadness. I managed to get my head together for a while and began packing some dry bags with various things that could be salvaged from the boat. I then just sat and waited for the Coastguard to appear. Just before they did, I scribbled a short note and stuck it to the chartplotter in the event that anyone should find my boat adrift, if I did indeed have to leave her behind.
 
 
The white hull of the USCGC DILIGENCE finally appeared on the horizon and they launched a RIB to come over to my boat to assess the situation. I explained and confirmed once again what had happened and they asked to see the rudder. After taking a quick look at the damage they seemed confident that they could make a repair in their own workshop onboard the cutter. What?! Not really taking in what they were saying, I was taken aboard the RIB with the damaged rudder and we sped back to DILIGENCE. I was greeted by Executive Officer Chapman who explained what they were going to do and given some food to eat. The captain of the cutter, Commander Sommella, then came down to speak with me and I was looked after by Chief Mess Officer Pedersen. I was taken down the the engineering room to see what they were doing and found Damage Control Assistant Drew Daniels and his colleagues busy repairing the damaged rudder. The worked on it as if they were going to use it themselves and made sure that it was going to be as good as it could be. They spent a couple of hours drilling out the damaged pin through a thick stainless steel bracket with a handheld electric drill. They then spent more time filing and finishing to ensure that the repair would fit the original attachments on my boat
 
 
The rudder was ready and we returned on the RIB to ALBA to fit the repaired rudder. It took some adjustments but eventually it slotted back into place and my row was saved. Commander Sommella very kindly gave my a USCGC DILIGENCE cap and we took some photos of the repair team with the rudder, which I asked them to sign.

I cannot find the words to express my gratitude to the crew of USCGC DILIGENCE for all they did. I was treated so well onboard and there were never any questions like "what are you doing out here" or any judgements. All they ever asked was "how can we help?", "is there anything else that you need?". A few hours earlier I had resigned myself to the fact that, once again, I would be returning home months earlier than planned and without my boat. Now, I am able to continue with my row and that is down to the hard work, ingenuity, persistence and professionalism of the crew of USCG DILIGENCE. Thank you so much.
 
 
I would also like to thank the US Coastguard in Boston for their efforts in helping and the members of my own support team who fulfilled their roles so well over the past 36 hours.
 
Although my rudder is repaired, I now need to get my mind back into a better place as I did not react well to the thought of having to abandon the row. I am very aware that a repaired rudder and the chance to carry on doesn't hide the fact that I need to work on myself for a while, which I will.

Finally, I was informed by the crew of DILIGENCE that Duncan Hutchison, who was trying to row solo from New York to Lochinver, had to abandon his row. I was very sorry to hear this and I hope that Duncan is OK. I never got much detail about what happened but I can empathize with how he must be feeling. Best wishes Duncan and don't give up.

Until.

NI

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